This is not a sudden development. Vast swaths of the state have been on autopilot for years, effectively immune to democratic influence. The Federal Reserve, particularly of late, has been acting like the fourth branch of government. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, without congressional, presidential or court approval, has been committing trillions of dollars to fix the financial crisis. That may be warranted; only time will tell. But there's still something troubling about an institution so immune to democratic control.
In 2002, Congress created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. It covers its expenses by taxing all publicly traded corporations. It alone determines the amount to tax, without approval of the White House or, more important, Congress, which, according to the Constitution, has the sole authority to levy taxes: "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives" (Article 1, Section 7). In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission raised the so-called Gore tax on long-distance phone calls by 73 percent without seeking congressional approval. Lord knows what the EPA could collect by extorting "climate criminals."
In fairness, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats reportedly don't want to cede authority to the EPA. Rather, they want to use the threat of an EPA takeover -- and its presumably draconian impositions on business -- to force reluctant moderate Democratic and Republican members of Congress to sign on to the president's cap-and-trade scheme (itself an enormous energy tax).
California's Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has said as much: "EPA, through its scientists, has given us a warning that global warming pollution is a clear, present and future danger to America's families. If Congress does not act to pass legislation, then I will call on the EPA to take all steps authorized by law to protect our families."
Translation: Either you vote our way or we'll render voting meaningless.
Other Democrats are delighted by the EPA decision because it allows them to have their preferred policy -- carbon regulation -- without actually having to vote for it.
Either way, it doesn't sound like these folks take their oaths of office very seriously.